Nana's New Life
(Author's Note: The following scenes take place in the week of downtime between the RED and BLU teams, and are presented in no particular order. This was first published on 4chan's Traditional Games board, and the thread in which it was first presented has been archived at SupTG; a brief search for the tag "nana" will bring it up. )
The sniper hummed tunelessly to the AM radio as his camper trundled along the desert highway. He needed to pick up some supplies - and beer - and Nana had begged him to let her come along. He figured that she just wanted some time away from the compound... he could empathize with that, at least. The same four walls all day long tended to give a body a terrible twitch. The little girl was peering out the window with her one good eye - Engie still hadn't managed to get a working replacement mocked up yet - her stubby little prosthetic fingers wrapped around the inch of glass that would never quite roll down into the door.
"It's so... big."
"Yeah!" She gawked openly, beaming. "I can see forever!"
"Not really. Take a look up ahead."
"Huh? Okay. What should Nana look for?" The girl was getting better about using "I" instead of "Nana", but she still slipped every now and then.
"See that big spire off in the distance... the one with the boulder beside it?" Nana squinted.
"We're going to have to pass that by to get to the store. Can you see it?" She squinted harder... and harder... and grunted.
"Exactly. That's why I have to stick a scope on my..." He trailed off. Damn. He loved his job, but it was so... awkward explaining it.
"On your gun, right?" Nana got a little quieter, but she was still enjoying the view.
"...right." He sighed. A few seconds passed before he spoke again. "Not gonna ask why I have to shoot people, then?"
"No, Tavish explained that to me."
"Tav..." The Demoman. He'd had to work with him for almost a year before he learned his name, and the girl had gotten it out of him in two days. "So what did he say?"
"Well, he said that you're fighting a war..."
"...but you don't die forever if you get killed, because of something Engie made..."
"...so it's really more like a really long game that hurts a lot when you lose." A pause. "Like boxing, but with explosions!" He laughed. Damn... that cut through the awkwardness pretty well.
"That's about the size of it." A minute passed. The radio popped and hissed as the song ended, and an ad for Blue Streak Beer came on. Nana flicked his bobblehead a few times, giggling when the head made rattling noises.
"Tavish also told me why you spend so long in the bathroom every day-"
"HO-kay, rather not talk about that..."
"But I wanna do that! I could be like a superhero!"
"No, you really don't-"
"POW! Yellow justice, evildoer!" She giggled. Great. Just what he needed... another person jabbing him about his insult of choice.
A day earlier, in the evening...
"Ooh, that was a good one!"
"Hold on, wait `til you see this one."
"Heh. Liked that, did ye?"
"How did you get it to do that?"
"I'll show ye later. Had to save me beer cans for a week. Wait.. hold it... here comes-"
"AHAAAhahahaa!" The light from the detonation illuminated their faces again. The Demoman was the one member of the team that wasn't having any problems, technical or ethical, with explaining his job to the kid. After all, kids love watching stuff blow up.
And while a detonating yard full of old cars, furniture, and other various incendiary sundries was hardly a fireworks display, it was certainly a lot more dramatic.
"Can I set one off?"
"Ach. They're on a timed fuse. Nothin' left to set off."
"Aww! Maybe next time."
"Why did you fix my legs, anyway?" Nana seemed almost pensive today as the Engineer peeled back the synthetic "skin" on her left leg. There were no touch receptors inside her leg, just on the surface, so it felt weird, like her leg was nothing more than a sheet of floppy rubber from the knee down. The engineer scooted back, silent for a few seconds, the only sound the radio behind him. It was usually on - whenever he wasn't playing guitar himself, or too lost in thought to pay attention to anything else. He retrieved a needlenose plier, and adjusted a few wires before answering.
"You've been around here for a while now." 'Here' meaning 'his workshop'. He never said 'here' when he meant the compound, or the kitchen, or anywhere else. Nana nodded. "Then you've been listening, right?" He cocked his head towards the radio. Nana nodded again. "Remember the Man in Black?"
"Right! Um... Jimmy Cash?"
"Johnny. Right." He set down the pliers, and slowly sealed up the skin, gingerly, as if he was dealing with actual flesh instead of a dense polymer. "Why did he make himself that stage persona, as far as you can tell?"
"Huh?" Right, dumb it down, dumb it down.
"Why is he the Man in Black?"
"To... remind people of the bad stuff, right?"
"Exactly. When you know about problems, you can fix them. He's put his whole life behind that." He squirted a bit of bonding agent along the seam, and eyed his work. It would take a minute to set up again, but she'd be good as new. Better. He was damn proud of those legs... the arms, less so, but they were doing the job. "So why do you think he did that?"
"Um..." She trailed off. "...because... he's trying to be good?"
"More or less." He stood, his back popping a few times. The girl hopped to her feet, landing on his toes - thank God for steel-toed boots - and quickly scampered over to one side. "It's what we were put here to do. Fix things. Simple as that..." He didn't quite smile - that was good, because it was a little bit scary when he did - but he patted her head. "It's the secret of life, right there."
"Huh." She nodded. "Papa used to say it was mitosis." Something boiled inside the engineer for a moment... he'd heard her talking about her "papa" before. Hell, one of the first things she asked him when he was working on those legs the first day was if he was going to touch her... -there-. A bilious taste rose in his mouth as he shoved the thought aside.
"Do me a favor?"
"Sure!" She smiled widely.
"Don't... ever talk about that man again."
"Huh? Okay... but why?"
"Because..." He stopped short. Because he was still out there. Because he was still hurting others. Because he was a problem that was beyond his...
No. He fixed death. Twice. As long as he had some backup, there was no problem he couldn't fix. This "papa" was just one to stick on his list... one to make damn sure he took care of.
"Because... he's a bad memory. I don't like seeing you sad." He smiled, and this time, it wasn't that scary.
"Why are you not running around like a little puppy dog with the other child?" The Spy took a last drag on his Parliament and put out the stub. She had been playing baseball with the Scout - or Pitch-and-hit, really - for the last few hours. He thought that it was a crime that she didn't know about the universe's greatest sport, and she was just happy to have someone to play with.
"He's getting lunch." The insult flew over her head. "Hey, why do you wear that mask all the time?"
"My head gets cold. It is the same reason why I leave my jacket on most of the time." He considered a second smoke and passed, turning to walk inside.
"In the desert?"
"I worked as a baker's apprentice for years. The ovens were blistering hot... eventually, I felt a little chilly when I wasn't around them." Nana blinked a few times, and nodded.
"Huh!" She still got a little spooked around ovens... it was understandable, but since the Heavy insisted on giving her cooking lessons, they'd been having sandwich... or "sandvich", as the girl insisted on copying his accent... dinners for the last four days. Nana was sucked into his casual lie, the girl taking it at face value. "Where was that?"
"San Sebastian, in Spain."
"I thought you were French!"
"I am, but in my youth, I traveled most of Europe."
"Have you ever been to Latveria?"
"Most of the Soviet states were-" He paused. Shit. "Latveria?"
"Yeah! The place that Doctor Doom comes from!"
"...the Scout is already poisoning your mind with his asinine comic books?"
"Asiwhat? No, we're just reading Fantastic Four and Jimmy Olsen."
"...sacre..." He mumbled something under his breath. At least he could try to start her on something respectable. Like Tintin. Or The Wizard of Id. "Latveria isn't a real place."
"Huh. The Scout's gonna be disappointed." He decided not to probe into that comment - it was likely she just misinterpreted his comments regarding the comics as reality. There was no way he was dumb enough to...
...yes, yes, he was.
"At least he hasn't started you on Archie yet..."
"You know, you and the rest of the team are kind of like superheroes anyway."
"What?" He laughed openly, intensely amused. Only a child could see his little band of mercenaries as heroic.
"Yeah! You've got Super Speedy Guy, the Incredible Punch, the Fix-Master..." She counted them off on her fingers. "Cyclops McBoomBoom, the Sergeant, Doctor Healgun, Burny, and Yellow Justice!" He almost burst out laughing again at Yellow Justice, but held his laughter.
"And that makes me the Invisible Man?"
"Or Mr. Mask. I haven't decided yet."
"Hm. I did pick up a new mask now that you're around..." His form shimmered and wavered, and then Nana was looking at... herself?
"WOW!" She reached forward and poked her doppleganger's head... only to feel the Spy's knee.
"Not bad, eh?"
"Not at all, Mr. Mask!" She grinned. "Hey, can I borrow one of your masks for a while?" He peeled off the Nana mask and handed her one - a mask of the Heavy.
"Just leave it on my door when you're done." She grinned, running off with the flat thing tied around her face.
Of course, the mask was useless without the rest of the equipment hidden on his person... but she was having such fun, he didn't want to spoil it. And besides, it gave him another few moments of precious solitude before someone else butted in.
She wasn't human. That much was clear. Abundantly clear. She had neural structures that were entirely too complex, although they looked half-formed and dormant, and she had several redundant organs - many of which had been harvested. She was down to one kidney when they found her, and from the looks of it, she was born... or made... with six. The Medic set down the X-rays, filing them away. Mysteries for another time...
"Ze prosthetics are holding well. No rejection, und no traces of infection." A pause. "How old are you? I cannot tell from ze development."
"Nana... I... I'm not sure." He had corrected her about pronoun use a dozen times since she had woken up, almost reflexively, and she was starting to pick it up. Slowly. "...ten?" If she was ten, she was a bit underdeveloped for ten. There seemed to be gaps in Nana's memory, places where she should remember things, but didn't. Just as well, he supposed.
"Hm. And haff you ever seen anything unusual happen around you? Mm? Anything... unexplainable? Bizzare?" He picked up his mirror and flashed a light into her eye, holding the lid open gently. It dilated properly, shrinking to a pinprick.
"Um... well... lots of bad things..."
"Not ze bad things, not those." He mumbled. "Things that could not happen that did."
"Um.. no?" She flinched as her other eye was examined. "I don't think so."
"No heads flying off? No random body part explosions?"
"No flying? No teleportation?"
"SHOULD that happen?" Nana gawked, her mouth hanging open, staring at the Doctor. He blinked twice.
"Well, you're getting to puberty, and it is a very special time in a young woman's..." He paused. "...no, not really. Just making sure."
Well... that went well. She was almost shaking in fear. Time to distract her.
"Say 'ah'!" Her mouth was already open. He plunked a tongue depressor in, staring down her throat as she managed an 'aaaaa...' "Oh, my. Zis is worrying."
"Zis cannot be. Zis... zis..."
"Zis is the throat of a girl who has not had a lollypop in ages!" He grabbed one from the jar beside him with a dramatic flourish, handing it to her. She stared at the sweet, blinking. "Take two before bed tonight and check in with me tomorrow."
"That... that was a joke, right?"
"So I'm not going to explode from not eating lollypops?"
"No... no, that vas just my strange sense of humor."
"Oh." A long pause as she peeled the wrapper off the lolly and licked it a few times. Butterscotch... mm. "You're sure?"
"I'm positive. I vas just trying to be funny. I promise I won't do that during exams again, okay?"
"As long as Nana knows you're playing, it's fine." He bit down the automatic reflex, the urge to correct her once more.
"Fine, fine. Run along, then. Dinner is coming soon." Well... crisis averted. He'd have to be more careful about how he brought it up later. There was more to that girl than anyone suspected... as long as no one was hurt by it, it was fine. But still... such a wonderful little mystery. He had to figure out what those extra cerebral structures were for!
She made him itch. He didn't like being reminded of his past... especially not in such a forward way. But perhaps it was unavoidable now. Definitely if the Engineer had anything to say about it. You didn't get in the way of a borderline psychotic, polygnostic Texan. The others wouldn't miss him. He disappeared for days at a time sometimes... the Spy, that was another matter. At least he had the excuse of running some recon. And there he was... barreling across the desert atop a stolen BLU jeep, still in the guise of the Demoman from earlier. He threw up the high-sign, and the Pyro relaxed a little. Definitely not a BLU trick. The vehicle skidded to a stop, the Spy peeling off his mask as he exited the vehicle, handing him a stack of files.
"You were right. The girl is definitely from the same facility."
"Mhh mtrhmmnng mhmmmrds!"
"You can take off that ridiculous mask, you know. It's not like we're in combat... and I've already seen what's under there." The black synthetic was torn aside, revealing a terrible mess of burn scars.
"Hm. RED has been pouring funding into the facility for the last few years at an alarming rate, but I could not determine what they have gotten out of it."
"Probably nothing yet..."
"You think that they are still stalled?"
"They didn't make much progress with their earlier products."
"True!" He snorted. "But that's not the really interesting bit. Look at this."
"On that ledger, right there."
"Interesting, isn't it?"
"A standing five thousand dollar tab from the Cinema 9? Who watches that many movies?"
"The other column, nimrod! There!" He stamped his gloved finger down, and the Pyro's red, bleary eyes widened.
"He's drawing funding from them on the side." It was an entry from the Binski corporation, a BLU shell. A very well known BLU shell.
"How doesn't the brass know about this?"
"Perhaps they do. Perhaps his work is that valuable to them." A pause. "Or perhaps he is just that careful with what he gives to his superiors."
"This doesn't make sense."
"Of course it does. Look at our intel. Our company officially knows nothing about the facility, and so we have to raid BLU's intelligence to find out about it. Perhaps the morons on the other side don't know about this?"
"Maybe." He groaned, rubbing his head. Espionage wasn't his strong suit. "You know, I'm still shocked that it hasn't been shut down-"
"Not every escape can be as disastrous as yours."
"Heh. True, that." He grinned, showing off a mouthful of cracked teeth.
"I have to get going. The Soldier requires these schematics."
"Right. I'll see you back at base." He patted the jeep, and went back to the papers. Nine years. Nine years since he had escaped in much the same way the girl had... although he had managed to rewire the disposal oven to explode instead of baking him to a charred husk. Probably why they had taken her limbs off first - they had learned from him.
Not that he was anything impressive... he smirked as he ran a finger across one of the blackened stubs where a horn had been, before pulling his mask back on. All these years, and all he could do was to make a tiny wisp of flame, far inferior to his beloved flamethrower.
He could understand why Nana was scared of him. After his own escape, he had been terrified of fire for years. But she would learn.
One day, she would see fire as the wondrous thing it was. The tool of her liberation. The light which cut away the impure and purged the world of the unworthy.
And he would be there to teach her.
The Pyro laughed maniacally for a few long minutes. Yes! Yes, he would...
He completely lost his train of thought. Scratching his head, he refocused. He needed to get back to base... needed to talk to the Doctor about this...
And he really needed a snack. Dammit, he'd been out here for hours, and he forgot to pack a lunch. Again. Silently, he wondered how far a hike it was from here to Speedy's Rib Shack.
Jane Doe was in mid-rant, expounding on an adventure he had in the war that was 90% imagined and embellished, but the girl in front of him was held in rapt attention.
"...Machinegunners to my left! A panzer to my right! I was trapped like a rat in a frying pan, and all that I could do was load my trusty `zooka and hope to God, Buddha and Sun Wukong that I could take some of those Ratzi bastards out with me!"
"What did you do?" She was goggle-eyed as she sipped her lemonade through a bendy-straw. The Scout had shooed her out of the room when the horror movies had come on Saturday afternoon, thinking they'd be a little too scary for her. If he knew the stories she was listening to now...
"Well, that was when I got creative. I needed to get airborne, fast. If there was one thing they weren't prepared for, it was a bombing run. So with all the speed I could muster-"
"Oh, not this story again." The Heavy groaned as he walked into the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge. "You know every time you tell that story, you change what you were up against."
"Of course I do! The concussion I received from my first gloriously successful rocket-jump led to partial amnesia! With so many tracks, I was left to reconstruct multiple possible outcomes... and every one of them is a hoot!"
"Have you told her the one with the three elephants and the clown car yet?"
"Still your tongue, soldier! Never... EVER mention those things around a child!"
"The other ones!"
"...oh." He popped the top of a beer can, drinking slowly.
"What's wrong with clowns?" Nana frowned. "They're kind of silly, but-"
"EVIL! Clowns are evil given form and shape! They're-"
"And now you are going to go into the story of the Nazi Clown College and the Piemacht."
(More to come, of course... any requests for the next few chapters are welcome.)